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Karzai Agrees with US Strategy, But Says No al-Qaida Bases in Afghanistan


Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he agrees with almost all elements of U.S. President Barack Obama's strategy for Afghanistan, but the Afghan leader does not believe al-Qaida has a presence in his country.

Mr. Karzai made the comments in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN, on Fareed Zakaria's GPS program.

Mr. Obama's plan involves deploying thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, and it makes defeating al-Qaida and other terrorist groups the top priority.

Mr. Karzai stressed that al-Qaida is not in Afghanistan. He said U.S. and allied forces, and the Afghan people, drove al-Qaida terrorists out of the country in 2001. He said al-Qaida might have sent fighters back into Afghanistan, but he emphasized that he does not believe there are al-Qaida bases there.

On another issue, President Karzai said efforts to make peace with the Taliban must come from the national level, with the backing of the international community, as well as at the local level. Mr. Karzai said peace with the Taliban cannot be made at tactical levels. He said no gains can come from a U.S. commander reaching out to a Taliban commander on the ground.

The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, also addressed the issue in a separate interview on the same program. Holbrooke called the possibility of reconciliation with some elements of the Taliban a "work in progress" that is being examined on every level. He said Washington did not really know how such a program might work, but he emphasized that it is important to reach out to people who do not agree with Taliban principles but misunderstand why NATO forces are in Afghanistan.

On another issue, Mr. Karzai said any articles of a controversial new law that are not in keeping with the nation's constitution or Islamic law (Sharia)will be changed.

Mr. Karzai was discussing a law that activists say restricts women's rights. It only affects Afghanistan's Shi'ite Muslim minority, and it essentially legalizes marital rape and forbids women from leaving their homes without their husbands' permission.

Mr. Karzai said the law was signed without full knowledge of all the articles it contained.

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